There’s a brilliant day’s racing to look forward to, with quality racing spread across the 10 meetings which are scheduled to take place in Ireland and Britain.
We run Laurina and Royal Rendezvous in the Grade One Novice Chase at Leopardstown, and it’s a fascinating race. Laurina will want more rain but she jumped really well in Gowran Park. She’s a very good mare but this is going to be a fair test of her.
I’ve been really taken with Fakir D’Oudairies and, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know which way this race might go.
It might be easy to say afterwards why either horse won but it’s not so easy from this side.
Royal Rendezvous has to improve a bit to be competitive in this company.
Willie starts off with Fils Spirituel in the maiden hurdle for four-year-olds.
He was desperately disappointing at Punchestown on his first start. We thought he was a really nice horse and that he would win, but he ran shocking. This is not a bad race, and Arthurian Fame is will be on plenty of people’s minds, but I’d be willing to forgive Fils Spirituel for Punchestown. He’s a much better horse than that, and hopefully he has a great chance today.
We are doubly represented in the next maiden hurdle, with Mt Leinster and Concertista. Mt Leinster ran really well in Gowran on very testing ground, but he has the Blackstairmountain pedigree so wants it a bit quicker.
His second to Easywork at Gowran was a good run, there’s no doubt about that, and they were a long way clear of the rest, so it’s easy to see why Paul went for him over Concertista.
Her run at Fairyhouse was disappointing. Obviously, she was a very good second at Cheltenham last year, but she has to come right back to that to have a chance.
Willie is pitching Echoes In Pain straight into a Grade Two on her first start over hurdles. If she goes and wins that will be great, but if she doesn’t, she will have picked up great experience. She’s quite keen and wears a hood but she goes okay at home. It’s a tough task against so many previous winners over hurdles but hopefully she will go well.
Willie runs Fenta Des Obeaux and Andalusa in the novice handicap hurdle. Both have had several runs for the yard, and both are still maidens.
Andalusa’s best run was probably at this meeting last year when she was third to Sir Erec and Tiger Tap Tap. If she could reproduce that run back at this venue, she would have a chance. If Fenta Des Obeaux settles she could run a good race, but both have had plenty of opportunities, are running in handicaps, and seem to be what they are.
We run Ramillies in the bumper. Patrick is gone to Limerick to ride Faugheen, but I’d say he’ll be disappointed at missing this fella. He looks a nice horse.
In Limerick, Faugheen is taking on Samcro and five others in the Grade One novice chase. It’s a great race for the track, and they deserve to get the horses they have got.
Many people thought Samcro was going to be a big factor until falling at the second-last in Fairyhouse, but I don’t know — it was too far out to say. But the spark he had as a novice hurdler most definitely seemed to be there, and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened when he came off the bridle at Fairyhouse.
Faugheen showed that he still retains all his ability when winning as impressively as he did having made a couple of very bad mistakes on his chasing debut at Punchestown.
His jumping will be put under a lot more pressure here and he will have to be better this time. He has schooled well since and hopefully that will show as he won’t get away with making those sort of mistakes today. But I’m going to go with him. I think that, in a better race and going that bit faster, his jumping will stand up. He’s in really good form at home, too.
I love him — I know I’m probably blinkered — and I’m going to stick with him.
Unexcepted runs in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle and he is my idea of the St Stephen’s Day banker. I was really impressed with him at Fairyhouse, and this race looks ideal for him. He’s a really exciting horse.
We run Egality Mans in the maiden hurdle over two and a half miles. He was second in a bumper at Sligo, he jumps and stays well and shouldn’t be far away.
Kalanisi Og runs in the mares’ handicap hurdle.
I don’t know if Fenta Des Obeaux and Andalusa, who run in the handicap in Leopardstown, have anything up their sleeve but I think this little filly could be on a nice mark. The trip will suit her, she’ll love the ground, and I think she has a great chance.
Willie sends Black Hercules and Billaway to Down Royal for the Hunters’ Chase.
Black Hercules is a former Grade One winner. He just got a bit tired on his first start in a point-to-point and finished second. Billaway is a great jumper who improved with every run last year, but I’d imagine that, of our two, Black Hercules is just that bit classier.
Over in Kempton, the King George looks a brilliant race.
We run Footpad but I’ve been in the Cyrname camp for a long time now, and I’m going to stay in it. Whatever way you dress it up or down, he beat Altior last time out, and that is some achievement.
To my mind, that is the strongest line of form on offer and he will take beating.
Footpad was very good in Thurles but that run was two stone below what will be required. Barry Geraghty rides him, he’s in great order and will be a great ride in the race.
Cyrname will go a good, strong gallop and that will really suit Footpad and Lostintranslation, but I think Cyrname will be too good for them.
The Christmas Hurdle seems to be all about Nicky Henderson’s horses, Epatante, Verdana Blue, and Fusil Raffles, but there’s been a lot of strong word for Fusil Raffles and I’m not going to go against the gossip from Seven Barrows.